How Dragon NaturallySpeaking Works - dummies

By Stephanie Diamond

In order to work effectively for you, a speech-recognition program like NaturallySpeaking needs to combine four vastly different areas of knowledge. It needs to know a lot about speaking in general, about the spoken English language in general, about the way your voice sounds, and about your word-choice habits.

How NaturallySpeaking knows about speech and English in general

Dragon NaturallySpeaking gets its general knowledge from the folks at Nuance, some of whom have spent most of their adult lives analyzing how English is spoken. NaturallySpeaking has been programmed to know in general what human voices sound like, how to model the characteristics of a given voice, the basic sounds that make up the English language, and the range of ways that different voices make those sounds.

It has also been given a basic English vocabulary and some overall statistics about which words are likely to follow which other words. (For example, the word medical is more likely to be followed by miracle than by marigold.)

How NaturallySpeaking learns about your voice

NaturallySpeaking learns about your voice by listening to you. During the training process, you read out loud some text selections that NaturallySpeaking has stored in its memory. Because it already knows the text that you’re reading, NaturallySpeaking uses this time to model your voice and learn how you pronounce words.

NaturallySpeaking goes on learning about your voice every time you use it. When you correct a word or phrase that NaturallySpeaking has guessed wrong, NaturallySpeaking adjusts its settings to make the mistake less likely in the future.

To help NaturallySpeaking learn better, correct it whenever it’s wrong. At times, it may seem simpler just to select the incorrect text, delete it, and start over. But NaturallySpeaking doesn’t learn when you do this. It thinks that you have merely changed your mind, not that its interpretation was incorrect.

How NaturallySpeaking learns your word-choice habits

Initially, NaturallySpeaking learns how you choose words from the Vocabulary Builder phase of training. It may seem as if NaturallySpeaking is just learning how you say some unusual words. But, in fact, Vocabulary Builder is worthwhile even if no new words are found, because NaturallySpeaking analyzes how frequently you use common words and which words are likely to be used in combination.

NaturallySpeaking comes out of the box knowing general facts about the frequency of English words, but Vocabulary Builder helps sharpen those models for your particular vocabulary.

For example, if you want to use NaturallySpeaking to write letters to your mother and you let it study your previous letters to Mom, then NaturallySpeaking will learn that the names of your other family members appear much more frequently than they do in general English text. It is then much less likely to misinterpret your brother Johan’s name as John or yawn.